Neuroscience and Learning – Article Review

Linda J. Mosley Gordon

Readings in Neuroscience and Learning

Article Review, 19 November 2015


If learning activities don’t yield real and sustainable

behavior change, that investment is wasted.

Britt Andreatta (2015:48)


6 Tips for Working with the Brain to Create Real Behavior Change

Andreatta, Britt. (2015, September). 6 Tips for Working with the Brain to Create Real Behavior Change. TD, 48-53.


Britt Andreatta is a learning professional who has also served as a professor and dean at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Antioch University, and several graduate schools. Her article, 6 Tips for Working with the Brain to Create Real Behavior Change, cited a recent report from the research firm Bersin by Deloitte. At the same time, research studies discovered that close to 90 percent of new skills are lost within a year of being learned.


Andreatta’s commitment to being a more effective instructor has led her to incorporate concepts and ideas gleamed from neuroscience research into the training that she designs and delivers. In doing so, she has postulated six tips/practices that can result in concrete and lasting behavioral changes.


  1. Work with the brain: At the core of learning lies the brain and its various regions and/or parts. Three areas that have major roles in the learning process and how information is learned are the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the basal ganglia.
  1. Focus is the starting point of learning: The hippocampus is where information is received and then transferred into memory. This is where learning begins because it is where the hippocampus begins to record information. Twenty minutes of information can be stored here, the remainder is processed, then moved into short-term memory. Focus is the catalyst for comprehension, retention, and behavior change.
  1. Connections are the key to memory: Learning originates in the hippocampus, and moves into short-term memory. The amygdala plays a role in transfer to long-term memory where it is retained and remembered if the required connections are established that link it to prior knowledge and/or experiences.
  1. Aim for three retrievals: Retrieval is the ability to recall, recover or recapture something that has been learned. Out of neuroscience research has come evidence that learning activities that involve retrieval contribute to longer retention. Research has also shown that three retrieval opportunities is the target to achieve in designing learning.
  1. Build in sleep between learning: During the sleep state, information received throughout the day is examined and processed. If determined that it is to be retained, the information is moved from short-term memory into long-term memory.
  1. Be a habit designer: The author feels that her work is that of a “habit designer.” She references the work of Charles Duhigg (the Power of Habit) who cites research that describes how the brain’s basal ganglia structure builds a habit loop that includes a cue or trigger, the routine of behavior, and the reward for completing that routine—integral components of the learning process.


Britt Andreatta is not only learning professional; she is also a talent development professional who is in the business of cultivating potential. In this article, she has proposed an interesting way of looking at learning design and delivery by focusing on knowledge of the brain-memory relationship, and how this relationship influences learning and behavioral change.


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